STEM has always been part of the Girl Scout experience—in fact, one of the first ever badges was the Electrician badge, added in 1913! Since then, Girl Scouts have been inventing new products, learning about digital art, and exploring the science behind the outdoors. Here at Girl Scouts River Valleys, we’re super excited about the 23 new STEM badges and Journeys recently added to our program. Even better, everything you need to complete these badges and Journeys with your girls is in the Volunteer Toolkit (A.K.A. VTK—an online app to help you plan and manage your Girl Scout year) and almost all of the curriculum is “unplugged”—you don’t need special technology for these activities! The new curriculum for this year focuses on Daisy, Brownie, and Junior program grade levels, but never fear! STEM content for older Girl Scouts is currently in the works. Let’s review what new offerings are currently available:
NEW STEM JOURNEYS
Like the Journeys we already know and love, the new STEM Journeys are all about exploring a new topic and then taking action to make the world a better place.
THINK LIKE AN ENGINEER
This Journey is focused on design and engineering challenges. Girls are given an open-ended prompt (like “build a shelter”) and then girls have to figure out a solution with the materials they’re given. Through the Journey, girls will learn about the engineering and design process, and how to persevere—even if their first solution doesn’t work!
Top tip for leaders: If a girl asks how to solve a problem with her design, answer her by asking another question, like: “Where is it not working? How could you fix that part?” This way, girls learn how to troubleshoot and figure it out on their own—which boosts their confidence in their own abilities!
THINK LIKE A CITIZEN SCIENTIST
Citizen science is the idea that everyone can contribute to scientific research by collecting data for scientists to use! In this Journey, girls will become citizen scientists themselves, learning about how to observe, collect data, and analyze data. Maybe your girls will collect cloud readings for NASA or monitor streams.
Top tip for leaders: Head outside with this Journey! Go hiking or camping—girls can learn to observe the world around them more closely while having fun outdoors!
THINK LIKE A PROGRAMMER
In this Journey, girls learn “computational thinking” and how to break big problems into smaller chunks. They’ll learn about algorithms, functions, and coding languages.
Top tip for leaders: Relating coding to things girls are already interested in can help them make connections. Do your girls like video games, apps, websites, or robots? All those things use code!
NEW STEM BADGES
There are three badge options for Daisy, Brownie, and Junior girls for Robotics and Mechanical Engineering (that’s three per topic per program grade level—flex those science muscles, girls!).
When girls earn their Robotics badges, they’ll learn how to design and program robots, and find out about their real-world applications. Follow the activities in VTK (they’re “unplugged,” but feel free to add technology if you have access to it!), or head to the shop for the printed badge guides.
Top tip for leaders: Find out if there are any robotics teams in your local area or high school. They often love to do community outreach and may want to come demo some robots for your troop!
These badges are a little different—they use a Goldieblox kit. Girls use the kits to complete different challenges, including a roller coaster design challenge and an airplane challenge. Find the kits at Girl Scouts’ online shop.
Top tip for leaders: After the girls complete a challenge, give them some time to free-build with the Goldieblox kits. You’ll be amazed at what girls invent!
Hannah Gilbert – Hannah is the STEM Program Coordinator at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She received her Bachelor of Arts in environment studies and anthropology from the New College of Florida. Prior to relocating to Minnesota from humid Florida, Hannah worked as an educator at the Orlando Science Center and was an outreach and grants coordinator at the Oakland Nature Preserve. In her free time, she loves watching movies at Uptown Theater and trying new restaurants. Hannah lives in South Minneapolis with her partner, and six-pound rescue dog, Figgy.